A surprised Saxby Chambliss on Iraq withdrawal: Barack Obama should have negotiated a stay

President Barack Obama’s announcement that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year caught nearly all of Washington flat-footed.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga./AJC file

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga./AJC file

One measure: The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee had taken much of Friday off. For what he said was perhaps the second time in 17 years, Saxby Chambliss and his wife Julianne had decided to stay in D.C. over the weekend and play tourist.

Chambliss had just finished touring the Old Soldiers Home, which served as Abraham Lincoln’s summer retreat during the Civil War, when he checked in. He was not a particularly happy senator.

Here’s a partial transcript of our conversation:

Q: How much warning did you get on the Iraq announcement?

A: The situation in Iraq is something we didn’t expect, didn’t anticipate. It should have been more a question of how many troops and how long they’re going to be there. I don’t think anybody expected them to make this kind of announcement.

What bothers me is that there’s the potential to lose so many of the gains that we made in Iraq — and we paid one heck of a price for them. I’m really concerned that a lack of any U.S. presence in Iraq — not going to be good for the long term.

Q: Did they bring you folks into the decision?

A: No, not at all. None of us on the Hill knew anything about it.

Q: Specifically, what is the concern? Is it that Iran will exert too much influence over Iraq?

A: They’re already doing that, of course. They will have a greater opportunity to inject themselves into the military as well as the political structure of Iraq. Also, just from a security standpoint — the hot spots that existed two, three, four years ago now have the possibility of seeing terrorist activity from al-Qaida and other groups moving back into the area.

Q: What alternatives were out there? Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the issue of immunity for U.S. troops in Iraq was non-negotiable. Once Iraq said no, what could we do?

A: You know, that’s the first time — that I’m aware of — that that’s ever happened. I’m not sure what that tells us about what the Iraqi governmental structure that’s in place now thinks about the participation of the United States over the long term.

I think you’ve got a [U.S.] president who’s been waffling on long-term support for Iraq, and I think that probably played into that decision, on the part of the Iraqis, to not grant immunity. And, of course, we couldn’t stay there without it.

Q: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has put out a statement declaring Obama’s decision to be either “political” or “inept.” Do you agree?

A: I think it’s both. It’s another attempt by the president to appeal to his base. And secondly, you can’t not negotiate immunity for our troops. That is just so fundamental. We’ve never had a president who’s not been able to negotiate that.

Q: Once those troops leave, there’s no way to put them back in, is there?

A: I don’t see how you could. What will be interesting to see is what the president does in the way of contractors that are going to be left — as well as added to the security force to protect U.S. civilians that will remain there by necessity. We’ve got some folks who are doing great work in some pretty remote areas, and all of a sudden, they’re going to have no military protection — a lot of agricultural workers and others are out there, that are going to have to have some security.

The only way you can do it now is through contractors. And that’s super-expensive.

Q: So we’re going to privatize U.S. presence.

A: And we don’t always control that. We know what we went through with some of our previous security contractors. It doesn’t always work out for the best.

Q: Were you kept more in the loop on Libya and the tracking of Moammar Gadhafi, who was found and killed Thursday?

A: I was with the French defense minister [Wednesday night], and I said, ‘Where do you think Gadhafi is?’ And he said, ‘Somewhere in the south.’ And that’s the extent to which they knew, and what we knew about his location. Obviously, it’s a positive result to have him taken out rather than even being captured.

Q: Is the outcome in Libya a validation of the U.S. decision to let France and NATO take the lead on operations there?

A: Certainly Gadhafi’s removal from power was the outcome that everyone has talked about from day one. The fact that it was able to be done without any loss of allied life is a very, very positive thing. I think it shows that we were able to coordinate with the French and the Brits in carrying out a military operation in a successful way.

Maybe that will provide some opportunities in the future for somebody other than the U.S. to provide some military operations for other folks around the world. We’re not going to be the only policeman for the world.

Q: At least it wouldn’t be as expensive. Let me ask you — Senate Republicans have been very critical of President Obama’s domestic policy. How do you assess his foreign policy performance so far? He’s had some pretty big wins this year.

A: He’s had some big wins from the standpoint of continuing to prosecute the war on terror, and I have always been complimentary of him on that. He’s had some tough decisions that needed to be made and he’s made them. The call on [Osama] bin Laden, and continuing to ramp up the drone attacks — all of that has brought about positive results.

Where I’ve been critical of him on his foreign policy is, from day one, he seems to have traveled around the world and apologized for America. But he’s had Secretary [Hillary] Clinton out there. She’s a hard worker, has been a very forceful secretary of state, and has done an outstanding job.

So I think there are pluses and minuses.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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351 comments Add your comment

ATL Guy

October 21st, 2011
9:36 pm

These Republicans voted with Bush to send our troops into a war that went on for too long, led to the death of thousands of innocents, left many more maimed and devastated our budget and led to record high deficits. And yet they want to keep the troops in Iraq for whatever crazy reason. Those people have no shame.

Road Scholar

October 21st, 2011
9:39 pm

Senator Chambliss, if you are so taken back by the decision, I’m sure there is a condo (and a golf course) in Iraq that you can rent. I hope your golf game out of the sand is very good!

Bootnewt

October 21st, 2011
9:53 pm

I hear that the U.S. Embassy that we have built there will make a great billionaire’s sandy resort for all the executives of Kellogg, Brown,and Root and all their shareholders. I say we give them a 1 way ticket over there for all of them and for all the Republicans who voted for this unfunded war that began our path to our current Deficits and Debt.

[...] A surprised Saxby Chambliss on Iraq withdrawal: Barack Obama should have negotiated a stay [...]

uno

October 21st, 2011
9:55 pm

This from a guy who just voted to kill the jobs bill. Understand that he will always support continuing an exercise that kills and mains but will never support his own citizens who pay for the killing with their tax dollars.

MrLiberty

October 21st, 2011
10:09 pm

MORON! Get us out of the middle east immediately. Ron Paul 2012.

Shame of Georgia

October 21st, 2011
10:15 pm

I am happy president Obama bringing our troops these republicans is against america. I wish they would just go away and leave our president along.

td

October 21st, 2011
10:16 pm

You libs make me sick. Me, me, me, me all the time. No concern for the long term protection of our nation. Lord, I did not realize until now just how many pantie waste sissy’s we have in the metro Atlanta area.

Shame of Georgia

October 21st, 2011
10:16 pm

Vote Saxby out the office

curious

October 21st, 2011
10:19 pm

Saxby on senate intelligence committee is an oxymoron. Saxby talks with French to locate Gadhafi. He’s in the south, they say. Surprised? Not me. Saxby should watch FoxNews. They correctly put Gadhafi in Sirte.
Saxby, Saxby: I remember about 5 years ago when you said there was no civil war in Iraq. Time to retire, old buddy. We deserve better.

td

October 21st, 2011
10:21 pm

curious

October 21st, 2011
10:19 pm

Who do we deserve? Who would be a better choice? A lib?

td

October 21st, 2011
10:22 pm

Shame of Georgia

October 21st, 2011
10:16 pm

To be replaced by a Lib? Not in your lifetime.

Jefferson

October 21st, 2011
10:23 pm

And how many wars did Saxby serve in? I will never forget how he trashed Max Cleland.

Why does Georgia keep electing this idiot? Oh yeah, he has an “R” after his name.

DannyX

October 21st, 2011
10:24 pm

Lol Saxby. Of course this will be a campaign issue.

Republicans on the claiming our withdrawal is a mistake will get them clobbered on the issue, absolutely clobbered.

American foreign policy is something we can now be proud, a complete turnaround from the days of the idiotic Bush days. Remember it was Bush who announced “Mission Accomplished,” how many years ago?

Da Mick

October 21st, 2011
10:26 pm

If you can’t make up your own mind about what in blazes we were doing in Iraq in the first place, how we got to where we are today, and how you should feel about current events, Saxby’s buds got some ideas for what you should think.

Stay the course! — This never was a University of Georgia football game folks.

vietnamviet

October 21st, 2011
10:31 pm

Adesire to stay is from a man, Saxby , who was classifed 4F during the Vietnam while playing baseball @ UGA. WUSSYS lways want to send someone else to war while they WUSSY out.

Give me a break!!! Stay in Iraq!!!! Give me a 4f break

Pizza

October 21st, 2011
10:33 pm

Root cause of the problem in Iraq is that we invaded the region. The failure will always be Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld’s.

Homeland Security begins at home. (Promote education and invest in the future of our country.)

Brad Naksuthin

October 21st, 2011
10:37 pm

It’s over!!!!!
After 8 gut wrenching years, $1,000,000,000,000 dollars, 4500 dead US soldiers..I can’t believe this unpopular war is finally over.
Sax B. and his military contractor buddies are sad the gold mine is getting shut down .
But with the deficit and Republicans insistence on cutting budget, this is one area where we can cut without hurting average AmeUT ricans.
Of course Chandless and his war buddies like to talk out of both sides of their mouths…..cut spending….AND keep the war machine going.
But with 70 percent of Americans wanting out of Iraq…Chandless and his friends are out in the cold

GaBlue

October 21st, 2011
10:42 pm

Senator Sexy Chablis….. what a disingenuous self-serving man. Had the President actually “negotiated a stay,” the Senator would be saying, “Obama is waffling on his campaign promise to get our fine men and women out of harm’s way in Iraq!” I’d love to see Max Cleland get him alone in an alley for ten minutes, but Sexy doesn’t have the stones to do that because he knows he’d get his pansy, draft-dodging behind kicked.

Repubs r Stupid

October 21st, 2011
10:44 pm

td (transmitted republican disease), just go the hell away. You’re a racist, coward, klan member, who is desperately fighting for something that you’re not a part of. The Republican party simply sucks, and Tea Party simply doesn’t exist. Obama wins EASILY in 2012. Get over it!

Martin Williams

October 21st, 2011
10:45 pm

The GOP idiots are full of it and I will add the Tea Party idiots too. All the young lives that are destroyed every day based on a big fat lie to go to war means NOTHING. We did not even go to war in Iraq for WMD per George W Bush, but to avenge the attempt on his daddy’s life by Saddam. The GOP folks will NEVER make that statement in public including our sorry a…….. networks. I believe we should also get out Afganistan by the end of the and save 2 BILLION dollars a week and very precious lives.

WAW

October 21st, 2011
10:51 pm

td(R) ‘nough said

double

October 21st, 2011
10:53 pm

There will be approx.160 troops left in IQ assigned to embassy.This was all reported several days back.Should not have surprised anyone.The immunity for US troops not negotiable.

GaPatriot

October 21st, 2011
10:59 pm

Saxby is no Republican – was a Democrat and is beholden to big farm and the lobbyists. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is a Republican In Name Only – the worst kind – a former Democrat.

WAW

October 21st, 2011
11:04 pm

Mission Accomplished” finally! The (R)’s are stepping on their own toes every time the open their mouths these days. Saxby is another token of what is wrong and Johnny is getting real close. They are owned by the 1% and think they’re something special. As grandma used to say, “I’d like to buy them for what they are worth and sell them for what they think they’re worth.” Instant riches!

At election time remember – Don’t vote against yourself.

ghp_fan

October 21st, 2011
11:08 pm

The withdrawal is long overdue.

The Kid

October 21st, 2011
11:20 pm

Saxby Chambliss should be considered an enemy of the state. For what was done by his campaign against Max Cleland he should;(not should); ‘WILL’ ROT IN HELL.

Sasha

October 21st, 2011
11:21 pm

Are all of you just creepy—-get up to date on stuff please so you don’t appear ignorant—more of a Patriot!
The Iraq folks asked us to leave their country 3 years ago. Its been negotiated to death and smart folks are sick of paying for it—Grow up.

Sasha

October 21st, 2011
11:25 pm

The “R” is the only feasible idea that keeps SC in office—
we need term limits folks—please vote these dummies out!

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

October 21st, 2011
11:33 pm

Shameless, let it go! They shouldn’t have been there in the first place. It’s been 10 years. How much time do you need to realize that they need to be out of there? If you still hadn’t figured it out by now, then it’s no wonder Mr. Obama didn’t consult you. And frankly, I have a little more confidence in him tonight knowing that he had the wisdom to bypass you since you have proven yourself to be both inept and corrupt. Please go away.

The Kid

October 21st, 2011
11:36 pm

td; you sound like a high school drop-out. It’s people like you who makes America so hated around the world. Have you ever been to war and seen the horror and pain. This was a war started from a complete lie by Bush and draft-dodging Cheney. Maybe you love Cheney, who loves to send someone elses children to war but he was afraid to serve.

Dusty

October 21st, 2011
11:40 pm

Looks like the same mouthy, hatemongers are here from the last blog subject. Pack up your tents and go away. Sensible people may come if you leave. That would be a nice change.

The Kid

October 21st, 2011
11:45 pm

Dusty; ‘ What are you smoking’?

Dusty

October 21st, 2011
11:50 pm

Nothing, KID. I don’t smoke.

Where are you camping? Out in left field?

Alabama Communist

October 22nd, 2011
12:03 am

More Breaking News On Obama Shocking Chambliss About Leaving Iraq…A unknown Spook Source deep within Dick Cheney Former Bunker said today.. ” We knew this would scare the crap out of Chambliss since he is not in the Obama Military Industral Complex loop However! The good news is that the Troops will be shipped to South Georgia to fight the Alien Lizards when they land to bring Peace and Love to the planet Earth..”

Dusty

October 22nd, 2011
12:06 am

Mrs. Norman Main,

Be careful what you wish for. Congress is the representatibve group for the citizens of America. And you think the president should bypass them on big decisions. Just decide by himself.

You do realize that means you want a dictator, not a government with representatives of the people. That’s the type of “president” citizens of Egypt and Libya just killed or captured to rid themselves of such a ruler.

We need Congress to have a balance of power with the president. That is why Chambliss and all other elected official in congress should be informed and heard by the president. Maybe you should read our constitution. We do have one.

td

October 22nd, 2011
12:09 am

Repubs r Stupid

October 21st, 2011
10:44 pm

You poor bloggers, by more than 80%, came on here day after day and said Barnes was going to be the next governor and the House of Reps would never fall to the Republicans. Guess what, you were wrong then so why should I listen to you now?

“just go the hell away”

No way. Someone has to be on this blog on Nov. 7th 2012 to sing “onward Christian soldier” to all you socialist whiners.

Away With The Far Right Idiots

October 22nd, 2011
12:09 am

Saxby, Saxby, Saxby…come on. Get over it. We should have left this God forsaken country years ago. Bush made a horrible mistake…remember, “Mission Accomplished”? Ha. Now, let’s get our a** out of Afghanistan. Let the tribal leaders kill each other. Let’s worry about America for a while.

benjamin franklin cheatham

October 22nd, 2011
12:10 am

Who cares what Mr. Vidalia Onion thinks about this country’s military matters? His choice to dodge the draft disqualifies him from participating.

td

October 22nd, 2011
12:14 am

The Kid

October 21st, 2011
11:36 pm

I can see you are a brainwashed soldier of the far left. WMD’s were used on his own citizens. Case proven so you can drop that lame excuse. Also, the vast majority of Dems in the Senate and House voted for approval to go war in Iraq, so it was not just Bush (like you leftest want everyone to believe but a bi-partisan war.

td

October 22nd, 2011
12:21 am

benjamin franklin cheatham

October 22nd, 2011
12:10 am
Who cares what Mr. Vidalia Onion thinks about this country’s military matters?

About 60% of Georgians care. It is you 40% others whose opinions do not really count for anything, just like you vote for Obamas re election will not be counted in this state.

Shaundarius

October 22nd, 2011
12:28 am

“…had taken much of Friday off. For what he said was perhaps the second time in 17 years,…”

Ooopsie, someone got caught playin hooky. ‘Second time’ my a$$.

And another thing Senator. You guys ceded carte blanch authority to unilaterally START wars to the President, now you’re upset because he’s STOPPING a war? Saxby you are even dumber’n I thought.

Dusty

October 22nd, 2011
12:29 am

B.F.cheatam

You are so wrong. Mr. Chambliss is an ELECTED member of congress representing the citizens of Georgia. Look up ELECTED and see what it means. You are going to be surprised. Chambliss is right where he is supposed to be.

Dusty

October 22nd, 2011
12:38 am

td,

The ignorance here is astounding. Almost unbelievable. I don’t think these people even know how our government works. That with pure prejudice and leftist imagination. Sad stuff.

Good luck and goodnight.

[...] question presented to Saxby Chambliss on Iraq withdrawal Q: Did they bring you folks into the decision? A: No, not at all. None of us on the Hill knew [...]

double

October 22nd, 2011
12:50 am

TD past your bedtime.

Z

October 22nd, 2011
3:27 am

The only dictators are the Republican/Teas in the 112th congress and some wannabees in the Senate. The only thing this Republican/Tea party congress can do is look out for their corporate buddies interests and trying to do away with all women’s rights. I would say that makes them a sorry group of UN Americans. The Georgia Republicans that were sent to Washington who supposedly are representing the people of Georgia are not doing their jobs and should all be fired come election time 2012.

Buckhead Boy

October 22nd, 2011
3:47 am

Bootnewt, I don’t suppose that the good folks at KBR would be interested in another sandy resort, as they probably get enough of that now visiting our money in the Cayman Islands from all those no-bid contracts. Now that was snide of me. I should have just written: since their “corporate offices” are in the Caymans.

Double Zero Eight

October 22nd, 2011
4:00 am

Saxby’s ego is hurt because he was not one of the
first to know about the withdrawal.

Buckhead Boy

October 22nd, 2011
4:23 am

td, some of us pantie (sic) waste (sic) sissy’s (sic) have seen the elephant; and having experienced the horrors of war ourselves, maybe are just a bit more cautious than you about subjecting others to such experience. So please have the courtesy at least to refer to us correctly as pantywaist sissies.